Protesting injustice has been an extraordinary educational experience both for Tai Ji Men dizi and for those who have helped them.

by Daniela Bovolenta*

*Conclusion of the webinar “The Power of Education and the Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on January 24, 2022, the International Day of Education.

An article already published in Bitter Winter on February 3rd, 2022.

Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.
Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.

In this webinar of January 24, 2022, four common themes emerged about the connection between the Tai Ji Men case and the International Day of Education.

First, Tai Ji Men is a spiritual movement but is also an educational institution. Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples) who testify in our webinars always mention how their meeting with the movement’s leader, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, was a profound educational experience. They learned how to overcome their limits and become better citizens. They learned to listen to conscience as the compass steering our life in the right direction. They learned to fight for justice. They learned that world peace and love are not a remote dream but a possibility.

They learn by practicing qigong, martial arts, and self-cultivation in the Tai Ji Men academies, but many also learned by accompanying Dr. Hong in traveling throughout the world, meeting world leaders, asking them to ring the Bell of World Peace and Love, presenting performances of traditional Chinese culture. All this is education.

Second, authoritarian governments and corrupted bureaucrats hate independent education because it teaches citizens how to think freely without buying the official lies. The crackdown on Tai Ji Men and other spiritual movements in 1996 was motivated by politics, as they were accused of not having supported the candidate of the then ruling party who eventually won the presidential election.

However, if we look more deeply into the attitudes of those who engineered the crackdown, we see the fear of independent education and independent thinking, which is typical of those who are afraid of freedom.

Third, resisting injustice is the best education of them all. I am sure Tai Ji Men dizi had already learned a lot about freedom, justice, and conscience, but their theoretical knowledge went through a fiery test when they had to personally suffer injustice, slander, and persecution. They resisted, protested, and did not give up, for more than twenty-five years.

Theoretical education became practical education. Pilots can learn a lot about flying from books and simulations, but it is only when they actually fly a plane that their education as pilots is complete. Similarly, Tai Ji Men had learned that conscience may successfully resist injustice and corruption, but it was only when they were actually confronted with persecution that they understood the deeper truth of this lesson.

Another image of the Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.
Another image of the Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.

Fourth, what we are seeing in Taiwan and elsewhere, all the exceptional efforts by Tai Ji Men dizi to continue to resist, witness, protest, tell their stories to others, work with international scholars and human rights activists, organize events, travel, and always keep calm and smile is not only a process through which the dizi educate themselves. In fact, they also educate others.

They educate thousands who see them in the streets, in winter or in summer, with good weather or bad weather. They educate the scholars who participate in these webinars and listen to their testimonies. They educate even the politicians and the government bureaucrats they submit their complaints to, although to be educated successfully one needs to listen, and with the bureaucrats this is not always the case.

Ultimately, this is what we are doing here: education. Through these webinars, and through their proceedings we publish in Bitter Winter, we learn ourselves about conscience and freedom and about the dizi who defend them. We hope many others will learn too. And we hope against all hope that even the government bureaucrats and tax officers will, one day, learn.